Friday, April 27, 2007

Amy Baker deserves what she gets

Judge won't cut bond for Baker
Kinney, Terry. Kentucky Post, April 24, 2007, pg. A2.

A judge refused to reduce bond Monday and set a May 17 hearing on the extradition to Kentucky of the key witness against a couple convicted in Ohio for the death of their 3-year-old foster child.

Amy Baker was granted immunity by Clermont County prosecutors to testify against Liz and David Carroll, a Union Township couple who left Marcus Fiesel bound in a closet while they attended a weekend family reunion in Kentucky.On Friday, authorities in Mason County, Ky., filed charges against Baker, accusing her of helping to get rid of the boy's body in the Ohio River -- which is Kentucky territory.

Baker, the live-in girlfriend of David Carroll, remained in jail following her hearing in Clermont County Municipal Court. Judge James Shriver refused her attorney's request to lower the bond from $50,000.

Baker surrendered Friday in Batavia to Clermont County prosecutors and has been held in the county jail since.

Defense attorney Norm Aubin said Baker will fight extradition to Kentucky. He said she doesn't have the money to pay the bond and could remain in jail for several months while the extradition fight is settled.

"It's not fair," the lawyer told Shriver. "It's not right."

Shriver was asked to appoint a special prosecutor in the case.

Clermont County prosecutors aren't happy that authorities in Kentucky filed charges against Baker after they gave her immunity to cooperate.

"Amy Baker should not be plucked out of Ohio to stand charges in Kentucky," Aubin said after the hearing.

Maysville police filed an arrest warrant on Friday, accusing Baker and David Carroll of tampering with physical evidence. Baker testified under immunity that she was with Carroll when he burned the boy's body and threw the ashes and other remains into the Ohio River off the William Harsha Bridge between Maysville and Aberdeen.

Clermont County prosecutors said they were assured by Kentucky officials that they would not pursue charges against Baker.

"If they did want her, they should have told Hamilton County and Clermont County prosecutors they did," Aubin said.

"They waited until it was all over before they even decided to do it."

Aubin said Mason County Attorney John F. Estill and Commonwealth Attorney Kathryn B. Hendrickson should have consulted with prosecutors in Ohio before filing charges against his client.

"We don't know why they're doing it," he said.

"You're going down the road of prosecutors getting in the way of each other's cases. You're supposed to use your own judgment and not bow to public pressure."

Estill could not be reached for comment Monday.

The Carrolls were accused of leaving the developmentally disabled boy home alone, bound in a blanket and tape inside a closet, while they went to a family reunion. The boy was dead when they returned to the home.

Baker testified at Liz Carroll's trial, which ended in her conviction in February. Carroll was sentenced to at least 54 years in prison.

David Carroll acknowledged his role in the boy's death rather than go to trial, and was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.

The case sparked calls for changes in the way Ohio dealt with foster children. The state revoked the license of Lifeway for Youth, the private agency that licensed the Carrolls as foster parents, although Lifeway is now appealing that action.

Amy Baker showed David where to burn Marcus' body

Maysville charges Amy Baker
Eigelbach, Kevin. Kentucky Post, April 21, 2007, pg. A1.

The star witness in the murder cases against Marcus Fiesel's foster parents now faces a felony charge of her own in connection with the little boy's death.

Amy Baker, the live-in girlfriend of Liz and David Carroll Jr., turned herself in Friday afternoon at the office of Clermont County, Ohio, Prosecutor Woody Breyer after learning that officials in Maysville had issued a warrant for her arrest on a charge of tampering with evidence.She remained in custody Friday evening at the Clermont County Jail, with her bail set at $50,000 cash, pending an extradition hearing.

Breyer blasted the action by Kentucky officials, saying it was a betrayal of the deal he made with Baker to give her immunity from prosecution if she testified against the Carrolls.

Authorities claim that on Aug. 7, Baker drove David Carroll's SUV over the William Harsha Bridge while he threw some of the boy's remains into the Ohio River. The span connects Maysville with Aberdeen, Ohio.

That's the basis for the "tampering with physical evidence" charge, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Maysville police have also obtained a warrant for the arrest of David Carroll on the same charge, but had not served that as of Friday.

"We were in no hurry to get him served," Maysville Detective Ken Fuller said. "We know he ain't going nowhere."

David Carroll is serving a sentence of 16 years to life at the Southern Ohio Correctional Institution in Lucasville.

Through a plea deal with prosecutors, he received a lesser sentence than his wife. She is serving a 54-year sentence in the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, Ohio, after a jury convicted her of murder and other charges.

Prosecutors in Hamilton and Clermont counties gave Baker immunity in exchange for her testimony, a deal that sparked anger throughout the region and helped drive the case against her in Kentucky, Fuller has said.

She told jurors during Liz Carroll's trial that she showed David Carroll a spot in Brown County where he could burn Marcus' body, then accompanied him there.

The 25-year-old Batavia, Ohio, woman also said she drove the Carrolls' white GMC Envoy across the bridge into Maysville, while David Carroll threw out what remained of Marcus' body after the burning.

The river is part of Kentucky, under the jurisdiction of Mason County.

Mason County Attorney John F. Estill asked Maysville police to investigate after the legal proceedings in Ohio were over, Fuller said.

Estill told The Ledger Independent newspaper in Maysville that he had promised Clermont County prosecutors not to interfere with the murder investigation. Since both Carrolls have been convicted, however, the "issue is moot," he said.

He could not be reached for elaboration Friday afternoon.

Breyer said the prosecution of Baker was driven by talk radio and questioned why Baker was being held on a high bond.

"She's not a danger to flee," he said.

Marcus, 3, who was autistic, died after the Carrolls and Baker left their home in Clermont County's Union Township on Aug. 4 for a family reunion in Williamstown.

Baker testified that Liz Carroll held Marcus while her husband wrapped him in a blanket, bound with duct tape, with his head and bare feet sticking out, and placed him in a playpen inside their walk-in closet.

Baker testified that Liz Carroll didn't want to take the boy to the reunion for fear that someone would ask about a bruise on his neck, which he suffered after David Carroll left the boy in his car seat all night.

When the Carrolls and Baker returned home from the reunion two days later, Marcus was dead.
Nine days later, Liz Carroll told police that she had taken him to Juilfs Park in Anderson Township, Ohio, and found him missing after she had passed out because of a health problem.

Police and hundreds of volunteers searched the park and surrounding area for days.

A week later, she called a news conference and asked people to keep looking.

KY Summit on Children needs to include people in and from foster care

Summit to focus on children in the courts
Meeting's goal is to improve system
Steitzer, Stephanie, Louisville Courier-Journal, April 25, 2007, pg. B2.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Lambert announced plans yesterday for a summit meeting aimed at improving the way the court system handles children.

Lambert said the Kentucky Summit on Children — to be held in Louisville this summer — would be the first of its kind.

He said it would bring together roughly 500 professionals, including judges, social workers, public defenders and foster parents, to talk about issues such as truancy, substance abuse and foster care.

"There is no more important issue in Kentucky or in any place than the well-being of our children," he said.

The summit is scheduled to be held Aug. 27-30. Afterward, nine regional meetings would be held to get feedback from communities on some of the ideas presented at the Louisville event.

Lambert said he hopes to make a final decision on some of the proposals by the summer of 2008.

Plans for the summit were presented during a meeting of a blue-ribbon panel that has been studying the state's adoption procedures since last August.

The 13-member panel has been looking into complaints that some parents have had their rights terminated too soon because courts across the state are inconsistent and some judges aren't properly trained in family law.

Mark Birdwhistell, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said he has strengthened standards for placing children in the care of relatives. He said the cabinet also has worked to provide more training to front-line staff and developed a checklist to help judges ensure due process for children and birth parents.

More changes, including possible legislation, could result from the work of the blue-ribbon panel and the summit, officials say.

KY Summit on Children, Aug. 27-30 in Louisville

Foster care shifts to family
Relatives seen as best placements
Honeycutt-Spears, Valarie. Lexington Herald-Leader, April 25, 2007, pg. B1.

FRANKFORT -- Kentucky officials are changing child protection practices in response to widespread criticism of foster care adoptions, and Chief Justice Joseph Lambert is calling for improvements to the state's child welfare courts.

Under the new child protection practices, social workers will be directed to try harder to place children with extended family members before they turn to non-relative foster parents. Birth fathers and paternal relatives would particularly benefit from this change.

"We've identified these opportunities for improvement with the expectation that they will mean more equitable results for birth parents," Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Mark Birdwhistell said yesterday at a meeting of a state Blue Ribbon Panel on Adoption.

Birth parents whose children are placed in foster care also will be told in clear terms by social workers and in writing that they stand to lose their children to adoption, Birdwhistell said.

The changes, which will take effect immediately, coincided with the announcement of an initiative by Lambert to improve Kentucky's courts and child welfare system.

The first-ever Kentucky Summit on Children will be held Aug. 27-30 in Louisville, Lambert said.

As many as 500 professionals will gather to offer recommendations to the Administrative Office of the Courts that don't necessarily require changes in the law.

"All corners of the state will be included in this broad-based discussion on how to provide the best care to our children," Lambert said.

Lambert said that the summit will study the issue of the fast-tracking of state adoptions versus children lingering in foster care and administrative procedures that would help prevent juvenile delinquency and child maltreatment.

At the summit, judges, lawyers, lawmakers, court and child welfare professionals will study truancy, court appointed attorneys, jailing juveniles and substance abuse.

Lambert will then host nine regional meetings in Kentucky on how to improve the court system's handling of children's issues. Lambert said he would approve the changes to the courts and child welfare system in June 2008.

The initiatives come at a time when Kentucky's child protection system is under intense scrutiny.

A federal law passed in the late 1990s directs social workers to find prospective adoptive parents for children soon after they are placed in foster care and allows courts to terminate parental rights more quickly than in the past.

Two Kentucky child advocacy groups released a report in January 2006 that raised the possibility that the cabinet was removing children inappropriately.

The cabinet formed the Blue Ribbon Panel on Adoption in August to study the problem.

Then, earlier this year, a cabinet inspector general's report said that some social workers in Elizabethtown broke laws as they unjustly removed children from their biological parents.

In preparation for the 2008 General Assembly, the task force yesterday decided to create work groups to study whether child protection records and courts should be open.

The work groups also will study whether court-appointed attorneys would receive their first increase in fees since the 1980s and whether state social workers are adhering to policy.

Chief Justice Lambert said he thought it was possible that Kentucky child protection courts and records, now closed to the public, could be opened but "that would require legislation."

Meanwhile, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services will create pamphlets to inform all parents whose children have been placed in foster care that they could lose their parental rights and their children be adopted.

The cabinet and Administrative Office of the Courts also are developing a checklist for judges to use to make sure that children and their birth parents get due process in court. Use of the checklist by judges will be voluntary, not mandated.

Legislation that would have required judges to educate birth parents failed in the 2007 General Assembly.

As a result, Birdwhistell said he has decided to go ahead and make as many changes as he could administratively, with social workers educating parents.

1,400 of Kentucky's 7,000 foster children are in residential treatment centers

State boosts children's home aid
Yetter, Deborah. Louisville Courier-Journal, April 24, 2007, pg. A1.

Private residential centers for some of Kentucky's most severely abused or neglected children are getting some extra financial help from the state.

Starting July 1, the state will provide about $4.7 million in increased payments over 12 months for children it sends to the nonprofit, mostly faith-based centers, Mark D. Birdwhistell, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said yesterday.

The action comes after lawmakers failed in the 2007 legislative session to approve about $7.5 million that centers such as Home of the Innocents and Brooklawn Child and Family Services had requested to keep up with rising costs.

"We're elated," said Jerry Cantrell, executive director of Bellewood Presbyterian Homes for Children in Jefferson County. "We can stop stretching things so thin and get back to the total focus on taking care of the children."

About 7,000 children are in state custody because they have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect.

About 1,400 are at private residential centers, and the rest are in foster care, with relatives or in other placements.

Bart Baldwin, president of Children's Alliance, representing about 40 such centers, said the rate increase — the first since 2000 — will help until 2008, when the alliance hopes lawmakers will consider extending the rate increase .

Some lawmakers, including Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, and Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, agreed that the centers the state relies on to care for such children are overdue for a rate increase.

But the increase got bogged down among other spending disputes in the session's final hours.

Meanwhile, officials with the centers said they were being forced to cut back services — or close altogether.

"This will really make it so that we can survive," Cantrell said.

The state — which doesn't operate any facilities for children removed from their homes — pays private centers about $170 to $180 per day, depending on the child's needs.

Officials say that hasn't kept up with the rising costs of providing 24-hour supervision and care for children, some who are severely emotionally disturbed.

They estimate the costs at $200 to $240 per day — and they say they struggle to make up the difference from donations, fundraising and help from sponsoring church organizations.

Birdwhistell said Gov. Ernie Fletcher approved the cabinet's plan for a one-time reshuffling of funds to help the private centers.

The move takes about $4.7 million from a fund used to help low-income parents pay for child care but replaces it with federal funds the cabinet reallocated.

"It's not to the detriment of any program," said Tom Emberton Jr., the cabinet's undersecretary for child and family services.

Ralph Risimini, president of the board of St. Joseph Children's Home in Louisville, said the increase will help his facility — but he hopes the state takes a more comprehensive look at paying the true cost of caring for children.

Foster care has become a 'sea of statistics'

Kentucky's kids need a happy ending Crawford, Byron. Louisville Courier-Journal, April 22, 2007, pg. B1.

On a Sunday when events of the past week have heightened concern for America's children, the plight of nearly 400 youngsters across Kentucky looking for homes and families to love them should take on added urgency.Most of the children have been removed from homes where they were mistreated or abandoned. Many of their stories never make the news or touch the public conscience — but each is a tragedy in desperate need of a happy ending.

Nationwide, their numbers are so great that their individual cases have become a sea of statistics: more than 500,000 children in foster homes, and more than 100,000 hoping to be adopted.

There are 6,900 children, from babies to 18-year-olds, in foster homes across Kentucky — 1,100 in Jefferson County alone — waiting for the state to decide their fates. Of about 375 children up for adoption in the state, 113 are in Louisville.

"We are in crisis right now," said Betty Bastin, recruitment coordinator for Foster Care and Adoption Services in Jefferson County.

"The kinds of situations we're seeing with children seem like they worsen every couple of years. And also we're in crisis with foster homes, because we don't have enough," she said.

Many of the children placed in foster care eventually return home, but regular mentoring and monitoring are needed.

"People don't always want to be parents," said Bastin, who was adopted as an infant. "They want the glory of being a parent, but they're not doing the right things. Families are hurting out there."

Younger children are usually adopted sooner, while many children between the ages of 12 and 18 are passed over. Those who never find someone to care may eventually wind up in the jail system.

Jose Dunn, who is on the placement team of Bastin's agency, was one of several children removed from a single-parent household. He might easily have become such a statistic had he not found hope for his life through the example of several role models.

"Eventually every child was taken away from my mother and was either adopted or fostered out, or were on the street, or they died," said Dunn, a retired Air Force captain.

"I had a house father and his wife when I was in an orphanage ... who dedicated their lives to living with us, and loved us by leading us and limiting us. If it wasn't for good people who stepped up to the plate, I don't think I'd be here today."

He notes that volunteers who are unable to serve as foster or adoptive parents may help keep distressed families together by serving as mentors or respite care providers.

"You can adopt a family," said Dunn. "Sometimes, even if we can't help the parent, we can help the child feel more comfortable and feel like they're going to make it.

"I loved my mother. She made a lot of mistakes, but if somebody would have been there to help guide her ... I think she would have made it," he added. "Money would not have made the difference. What would have made the difference is actual hands-on people."

To learn more about how you can help, phone (502) 595-KIDS in Louisville or call the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services adoption branch at (800) 928-4303.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Surge of deaths due to domestic violence

File rash of kids' deaths under domestic violence
Thomas, Darlene. Lexington Herald-Leader, April 16, 2007, pg. A6.

Each of the violent deaths and serious assaults that occurred the past few weeks was domestic violence. Not a domestic dispute, not a relationship gone sour, but real individuals trapped by coercive, controlling and violent conduct.

When a domestic-violence death occurs, it often evokes strong emotions. We ask why she didn't leave. How could a man hurt his own child? Why would any human being want to hurt the people or person they say they love?

Arrests have been made in the recent episodes of violence, but in our quest to fully understand how this continues to occur, we must look beyond the physical perpetrator and wonder: Where were the neighbors, the police, social services, the shelter, the courts, the schools, the church?

Questioning systems designed to help protect adult and child victims is important; questions make sure that we stay diligent to our missions and never take for granted the capacity for harm to occur.

But these systems can only operate from the information they are given. Judges, police officers, teachers, social workers and domestic-violence program advocates are here to help, to assess, assist and provide options and choices, but the system cannot do it alone.

Domestic violence is a community issue, not an individual issue. Domestic violence does not discriminate, therefore no one is immune. Understanding that the impact of family violence touches schools, college campuses, workplaces, our places of faith, neighborhoods and families is imperative if we are to address the issue holistically.

When considering breaking the cycle of violence, families experience a wide range of feelings, including embarrassment, humiliation, fear, isolation and abandonment. As a community, we can begin to address those feelings by:

* Becoming aware of the problem and sending clear messages that we do not condone or tolerate family violence.

* Encouraging the media to report information about where victims can go and who they can contact for support.

* Encouraging businesses to include domestic violence protocols in their risk-management policies to help protect victims and other employees.

* Openly discussing the issue of family violence from our pulpits, classrooms, board rooms and women's and men's associations, affirming to victims and perpetrators that the "secret" no longer holds power.

* Supporting service providers and researchers who are trying to help families in need through donations and volunteerism.

* Partnering with school officials to address potential gaps in monitoring home schooling, especially if the family has been identified as high-risk.

* Encouraging friends, family and neighbors to report suspected abuse.

People ask, "Where were they?" I challenge with the question, "Where are we?"

-Darlene Thomas
Executive director of the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program
Lexington, Kentucky

Join the Conversation about racial inequities in foster care

Readers Forum: Confronting the racial disparities in the foster care system
Deines, Helen. Louisville Courier-Journal, April 9, 2007, pg. A6.

Applause for your April 3 editorial regarding "Race and family" in Kentucky.The commonwealth's Cabinet for Health and Family Services has courageously acknowledged the racial disparity in the number of children it removes from their own homes and places in foster care.

No state is exempt from this problem.

Kentucky models honesty in being among the first to plan specific actions to keep all children safe in ways that are also fair to every child and family.

The statewide plan is actually an expansion of a pilot program, nurtured in the Cabinet's Metro Louisville office with the guidance of the Casey Family Programs Foundation.

Many of us in Louisville — child welfare workers, birth parents who have regained custody of their children, youth raised in foster care, community partners, academics — have been working together for 18 months to grapple with these racial disparities and to make changes in all of our work.

There are some key facts to face:

-Research is clear that white families and families of color in like circumstances are equally likely to maltreat their children.

-Most children in foster care are there for poverty-related neglect, not abuse.

-The racial inequities we see in child welfare mirror the racial inequities we see in health care, education, criminal justice and economics.

-We are dealing with community problems that play out in the lives of children. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services cannot respond to these problems alone.

-Professional child welfare workers need each of us to do what we can, especially to reach out to poor families of color.

There are many ways to help, from lending a hand to a neighbor experiencing hard times, advocating for a living wage, welcoming affordable housing stock in our subdivisions, unraveling our un- spoken biases, and — of course — calling the child abuse hotline if we suspect a child is in danger.

There is even a Web site where you can keep current, ask questions, request a speaker for your congregation and make your opinion known. Just go to

It will take this whole community to undo the racial inequities embedded in the lives of our children.

Louisville 40220

I used to play these commercials really loudly, and hope my father would listen to them -- it didn't work

'Hugged your kid's' Jack C. Lewis dies
Idea came from bumper sticker
Burba, Paula. Louisville Courier-Journal, April 4, 2007, pg. B6.

Jack C. Lewis, who was responsible for popularizing the 1970s "Have You Hugged Your Kid Today?" slogan, died Sunday at Baptist Hospital East in Louisville.

Lewis, who lived in Frankfort, Ky., was 72.

He said he got the idea for the bumper sticker after seeing something similar while on vacation in South Carolina.

While commissioner of the Kentucky Bureau for Social Services — the agency overseeing foster care, adoptions and juvenile delinquency — Lewis had 10,000 red-and-white bumper stickers with the saying printed, with "Kentucky Department for Human Resources" in unobtrusive type below the "Have You Hugged Your Kid Today" slogan in bold red ink. That was in the spring of 1976.

Less than six months later, people were reported fighting over the stickers at the state fair, where the agency, which normally did not advertise, had to set a limit of one sticker per family.

"All my life I've been impressed by what it can do to touch someone's shoulder," Lewis told T he Courier-Journal in 1976. "Over 90 percent of juvenile delinquency — if that (hugging) were practiced in the home — wouldn't happen."

By the time he resigned from his position as commissioner in July 1978, more than 350,000 "Have You Hugged Your Kid Today?" bumper stickers had been distributed to all 50 states and 17 countries.

A native of Bell County, Lewis was a graduate of Union College and earned his master's degree in social work at the University of Louisville .

He had worked with children's institutions and had directed residential services for the former state Department of Child Welfare before becoming director of field services for the Social Services Bureau.

He became deputy commissioner of social services in 1974 and was promoted to commissioner in 1976. He left in 1978 to join the private sector but returned to state government in 1984 as deputy secretary of corrections. He later became commissioner of corrections, a post he left in 1996.

Disturbingly high rate of child abuse in Kentucky

Commentary: Too many death
Make fixing protective services top priority
Lexington Herald-Leader, April 3, 2007, pg. A8.

Kentucky is losing more children to abuse and neglect than all but three other states and the District of Columbia.

The number nearly doubled from 2000 to 2004. Kentucky's rate of abuse and neglect fatalities is 3.88 per 100,000 children, well above the national average of 2.03.

Yet the Fletcher administration and Senate Republican leaders blocked an in-depth study of what's wrong with child-protective services.

The legislature that adjourned last week did approve $6 million to hire new social workers and improve child-protection workers' safety. That's good.

But instead of the in-depth study by an independent panel sought by the House, we have yet another study group dominated by agency insiders.

In the last year, we've read a series of disturbing articles by Herald-Leader staff writer Valarie Honeycutt-Spears about families who've been arbitrarily shattered by an agency that's under pressure to pump up adoption numbers.

At the same time, older children languish in foster care with little hope of a permanent family to see them through their teens and into adulthood.

The inconsistencies in how parental-rights and adoption cases are handled across the state prompted child advocates to dub the system: "Kentucky's other lottery."

The system of foster care and adoption has been the subject of a critical report by the state auditor's office. And a state inspector general's investigation revealed shocking, and in some cases what was described as criminal, misconduct by the regional child-protection agency in Elizabethtown, The inspector general provided a list of recommendations that should be enacted statewide.

The legislature made some progress, but really just played around the edges of the more complex problems. Likewise, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has responded with some changes and restructuring, but nothing like the overhaul that's needed.

It will take fresh eyes and outside perspectives to fix what's broken within the bureaucracy of Kentucky's community-based services.

The next governor should put that task at the top of his to-do list.

Reform failed because its recommendations were shot down

Officials must go back to work on reform
Task force, failed legislation at issue.
Honeycutt-Spears, Valarie. Lexington Herald-Leader, April 2, 2007, pg. A1.

FRANKFORT -- A few weeks from now, state child protection officials are likely to face some hard questions at a meeting of a task force convened last year to study the decisions social workers and courts make about removing Kentucky children from their parents.

Chief among them:

* How is the Cabinet for Health and Family Services going to stop state social workers from making arbitrary recommendations that can result in death and injury to some children while other children are unjustly removed from their biological families?

* And why did reform legislation, written by cabinet officials, fail to pass during the recently ended 2007 General Assembly session?

Some critics say the cabinet put together a bad bill and that the task force created by the cabinet was flawed at its inception because the panel was created and led by the very agency that is facing criticism for its decisions.

"I thought the legislation was poorly constructed and not well-thought out," said Jennifer Jewell, executive director of Women in Transition, an organization in Louisville and Lexington that helps mothers under investigation by social services.

"The task force was flawed," Jewell said, in part, because it did not include biological parents whose children had been removed.

Jewell and Lexington attorney Robin Cornette, who represents biological families in danger of losing their children, say that a group independent of the cabinet should be investigating the cabinet's problems. They say some members of the task force are connected to the cabinet in one way or another. Cornette, who testified in front of the task force, said that she and other professionals were given only 15 minutes to try to explain very complex laws and court procedures.

Cabinet Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell, who was chairman of the task force, says that in the next year the cabinet is committed to fixing the inconsistencies that can lead to life-threatening and life-altering consequences for children.

He promised intense study of whether social workers are adhering to policies designed to protect both children and their biological families and on whether Kentucky should open child protection courts.

Birdwhistell said he expects the task force to also spend months studying the various issues involved in giving court-appointed attorneys their first fee increase in more than 20 years so that they can better represent parents and children.

"We've got to tackle transparency in courts" and try to make sure that parents get better representation from court-appointed attorneys," said Birdwhistell.

A federal law passed in the late 1990s directs social workers to find prospective adoptive parents for children soon after they are placed in foster care and allows courts to terminate parental rights more quickly than in the past.

Parents don't have to be physically or sexually abusive to lose their children forever, only to be found neglectful in some way.

Two Kentucky child advocacy groups released a report in January 2006 that raised the possibility that the cabinet was removing children inappropriately.

Meanwhile, a cabinet inspector general's report found that some social workers in Elizabethtown broke laws as they unjustly removed children from their biological parents.

Birdwhistell convened the Blue Ribbon Task Force in August, saying that it would draft reforms for the 2007 General Assembly.

In retrospect, Birdwhistell says, it was in unrealistic to think that legislation could be drafted on such a complex issue in a few short months.

The proposed legislation was not drafted until late in the session and it was not given to task force members to review until the morning it was introduced. That prompted several members to complain that they had been left out of the bill drafting process.

The original legislation called for judges to alert biological parents that they could lose their children forever once they were in foster care, but that provision was cut at the urging of the Administrative Office of the Courts, which was uncomfortable with legislators making requirements of judges.

The legislation called for judges to appoint parents an attorney shortly after a child was taken away. But State Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, said that provision caused the bill to die because lawmakers from small counties didn't think there were enough court-appointed attorneys available.

Although task force members had agreed that the fees for court-appointed attorneys should be increased for the first time since the 1980s, the bill actually reduced the fees. State Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, said he thought the bill died because so many court-appointed attorneys were against the provision that reduced fees for them.

But Cornette, the Lexington attorney, said she thought the legislation failed because the suggestions of advocates and professionals weren't included.

"The process wasn't thorough," Cornette said, "and it wasn't thoughtful."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

LifeSkills, Inc. offers foster care classes

Foster parent training
News-Democrat & Leader, April 13, 2007.

Each year, thousands of children are placed temporarily in foster care due to parental abuse or neglect. Often, there are a shortage of foster homes to care for the children.

LifeSkills, Inc. Therapeutic Foster Care will be starting new classes soon to help train, support and give financial assistance to those who would like to provide a short-term place for children to live.

These children need help. LifeSkills, Inc. TFC is a non-profit nationally accredited private child care agency that works with children who have a variety of needs and require a loving home environment.

If anyone would like more information on becoming a professional parent, please contact Peggy Zorn at 270-901-5000, ext. 1215.

Monday, April 09, 2007

No funding to build visitation centers - sigh

Social workers hail 'Boni Bill'
New state law offers protection
Yetter, Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier-Journal, April 6, 2007 , pg. A1.

Nearly six months after a Western Kentucky social service aide was killed on the job, Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed a bill yesterday meant to keep state social workers safer.

Called the Boni Frederick Bill after the worker fatally stabbed and beaten in Henderson last October, it will provide $6 million to hire more social workers, improve security at local offices and create secure sites where parents can visit children removed because of abuse or neglect.

Frederick's daughter, Sandy Travis, of Dixon, Ky., said in an interview it is a huge relief that the bill has become law — after several twists and turns through the legislature that left her fearful nothing would come of the effort inspired by her mother's death.

"I plan on exhaling today," said Travis, who was unable to attend yesterday's ceremony to sign the bill at a state social services office in Louisville. "I am really thrilled. Anything that will keep this from happening to somebody else — how could you not be thrilled?"

The bill includes $3.5 million for security improvements and $2.5 million to hire about 80 front-line workers over the next year. It has an emergency clause, meaning it takes effect immediately.

Fletcher signed the bill surrounded by state social service officials, lawmakers who supported the legislation and some of the state's 1,500 front-line social workers and aides who have long argued the agency is underfunded, leaving workers with rising caseloads and facing increasingly dangerous situations.

The so-called front-line staff members, who work in the field, carry an average of 20 to 25 cases each , while the target is 17 cases each.

"This bill means so much to the workers," said Karen Ivie, a state social worker from Kenton County who spoke at the ceremony. "It just brings up morale so much."

Frederick's death touched off an outpouring of comments from social workers around Kentucky who said their caseloads are too high, they often encounter angry or hostile families in investigating abuse allegations and there simply aren't enough workers to meet the needs of families stressed by violence, poverty and drug or alcohol abuse.

Social workers who attended the signing ceremony said it is a fitting memorial to Frederick.

"We're glad," said Patricia Pregliasco, a social worker in Jefferson County who has been outspoken about the agency's need for more money and more workers.

Lynda Dougherty, who works as an advocate for parents involved in child protection cases in Jefferson County, said she's happy the agency is getting more resources that could help protect workers.

"Everyone don't love their (state) workers but they're doing their jobs and they should be secure," Dougherty said. "It's sad it had to take that one event to make it happen."

Mark D. Birdwhistell, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said officials began searching for ways to improve the child welfare system immediately after Frederick's death after he and Fletcher agreed "we need to take this tragedy and make something good come out of it."

But he and several others who spoke yesterday, including Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, the sponsor of the legislation, said the $6 million won't be enough.

"It's not everything I wanted," Burch said, speaking to social workers. "It's not everything you wanted. It's only the beginning."

The final bill drops a plan to expand outside visitation centers around the state where parents can visit children — something many advocates had wanted but some members of the Senate opposed. Rather it requires the cabinet to create such centers within its existing facilities.

Burch said he would continue to seek funding to expand such centers, believing they are an important service to families.

The bill also creates a work group to study additional improvements the legislature could authorize in 2008, and Birdwhistell said the visitation centers and security will be among issues studied.

Travis said she doesn't plan to let the issue drop and will continue to advocate improvements in the child welfare system.

"I'm not done," she said. "I plan to get involved."

Fear and concern as a result of social worker's death

Fletcher signs social worker law
Measure will add security, staffing
Schreiner, Bruce. Kentucky Post, April 6, 2007, pg. A2.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher on Thursday signed into law a measure intended to make sure that the slaying of a Kentucky social worker won't happen again.

"I would hope, first of all, that we don't have to attend any more funerals of our workers," Fletcher said at a signing ceremony attended by a number of lawmakers and social workers at a state social service office.The legislation, named in western Kentucky social worker Boni Frederick's honor, is meant to strengthen on-the-job protections for social workers. It includes $6 million to hire additional social workers and improve safety.

The law will result in bolstered security at social workers' offices, a safer environment for visits between birth parents and abused or neglected children and technology aimed at ensuring social workers' safety.

Social workers also will have around-the-clock access to criminal records.

"Even though it wasn't everything that we wanted, it is a very good start," Fletcher said.

The original bill, backed by Fletcher's administration, called for about $20 million during the next 16 months to add more than 300 social services staffers, including 225 social workers.

Frederick, a Morganfield social services aide, died last October after being stabbed and beaten when she took a 10-month-old boy for a visit at his mother's house. The youngster was found safe and returned to foster care after a three-day manhunt. The boy's mother and her boyfriend have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping, robbery and theft.

At the bill-signing ceremony, state Health and Family Services Secretary Mark Birdwhistell recalled an emotional meeting with social workers following Frederick's death.

"I saw fear; I saw concern," he said.

Northern Kentucky social worker Karen Ivie called the bill signing a "milestone event," and said the law includes features requested in studies from 1985 and 1995 -- long before a review following Frederick's death.

"Twenty-two years, three formal studies, years of public bashing or lack of understanding from the public, finally we're seeing the first steps in moving forward in a positive and meaningful way," Ivie said.

Some of Frederick's colleagues attended the signing ceremony. One of them, Henderson County social worker Kelly Shaw, said she hoped the safety measures would reach social workers quickly. She said on-the-job safety is a common concern.

"I'm glad to see something positive come out of this tragedy," Shaw said.

One important step to improve safety would be a "quick turnaround" on criminal checks to make social workers fully aware of situations before going out on calls, she said.

"We never know what we're walking into a lot of the times," Shaw said.


AP Photo/The courier-Journal, Pam Spaulding

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher shakes hands with social worker Karen Ivie at the signing of a law to improve social worker safety.

Author: Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press
Section: News
Page: A2

Boni Bill signed into law - a good first step

Fletcher signs 'Boni bill' designed strengthen social worker protections
New law provides for more workers, better technology, security
Schreiner, Bruce. Lexington Herald-Leader, April 6, 2007, pg. D1.

LOUISVILLE -- Gov. Ernie Fletcher yesterday signed into law a measure intended to make sure that a crime like last year's slaying of Western Kentucky social worker Boni Frederick won't happen again.

"I would hope, first of all, that we don't have to attend any more funerals of our workers," Fletcher said at a signing ceremony attended by a number of lawmakers and social workers.

The legislation, named in Frederick's honor, is meant to strengthen on-the-job protections for social workers. It includes $6 million to hire more social workers and improve safety procedures. The law will result in bolstered security at social workers' offices and provide them with technology aimed at ensuring their safety. Social workers also will have around-the-clock access to criminal records.

"Even though it wasn't everything that we wanted, it is a very good start," Fletcher said.

The original bill, backed by Fletcher's administration, called for about $20 million during the next 16 months to add more than 300 social-services staffers, including 225 social workers.

Frederick died in October after being stabbed and beaten when she took a 10-month-old boy for a visit at his mother's house in Henderson. The youngster was found safe and returned to foster care after a three-day manhunt. The boy's mother and her boyfriend have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping, robbery and theft.

Some of Frederick's colleagues attended the signing ceremony.

One of them, Henderson County social worker Kelly Shaw, said she hoped the safety measures would reach social workers quickly. She said on-the-job safety is a routine concern.

"I'm glad to see something positive come out of this tragedy," Shaw said in an interview.

One important step to improve safety would be a "quick turnaround" on criminal checks to make social workers fully aware of a situation before going out on calls, she said.

"We never know what we're walking into a lot of the times," Shaw said.

Rebecca Harbin, a social worker in Louisville, said the additional 60 to 80 social workers expected from the legislation will ease caseloads, but said it's "not even a drop in the bucket" to staffing needs. She hoped the legislation would be a catalyst for more action in the 2008 legislative session.

"We are going to have to continue ... to push for more to keep it on the front burner because this is not everything that we need," Harbin said. "We need much more."

Poverty a bigger factor than race in terms of losing custody of children

Kids' removal from homes eyed
State takes high number of blacks
Yetter, Deborah. Louisville Courier-Journal, March 31, 2007, pg. A1.

Concerned about the disproportionate number of black children in state care, Kentucky officials are launching a project to determine why so many are being removed from homes and what can be done about it.

About 19 percent of the 7,000 children in state care are black, yet African Americans make up only 7.3 percent of Kentucky's population.

"This is an opportunity to make a difference and do what's right," said Tom Emberton Jr., who oversees the state social-service system for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

African-American lawmakers from Jefferson County — which has the highest rate of black children removed from homes because of alleged abuse and neglect — welcome the initiative. More than half the Jefferson County children in state care are black, although African Americans make up only 19 percent of the county's population.

"The numbers are disturbing," said state Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville. "We must find out exactly what's going on and how to correct it.

Neal said he believes there is "clearly a racial component" but said the issue probably is more complex — involving poverty, housing, services for families such as counseling or drug treatment and other issues.

State Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, said he is concerned about the problem, particularly in Jefferson County.

"The numbers are staggering," he said. "This is a very serious problem, and we have to find out the reason for it."

Emberton said that's what the state intends to do in coming months. It has identified 11 counties with the highest rates of black children in state care and will spend about $500,000 over the next year to try to find out why.

At the same time, the state is launching more training and education on possible biases by those involved in child welfare and how to overcome them.

Benita Hollie, an African- American single mother from Lexington who is fighting to regain her two children, said she supports the plan. Hollie, whose children were removed from her custody three years ago, said impoverished parents — especially African Americans — are at a disadvantage in the child-welfare system.

Hollie said she asked a relative to care for her children while she was recovering from injuries in a car accident and they were removed after child protective workers investigated. The state, citing confidentiality laws, has declined to comment on her case.

"It's like you're set up for failure and more so if you are African American," she said. "If you don't have money or clout, anything can happen to you."

Hollie has joined Women in Transition, a Louisville-based group working to persuade the state to examine its child-welfare system. In particular, the group wants the state to look at how it treats poor single parents.

Emberton said he heard some of their concerns when members of the group spoke at a series of task-force meetings in Frankfort over the past several months. He hopes the state's project will address issues such as whether decisions are being made "simply because a family is poor."

Kentucky's effort mirrors national concern
The Child Welfare League of America and the Annie E. Casey Foundation are among the groups that have called on officials to study the imbalance and address the causes.

The Child Welfare League has reported that black and American Indian children are placed in foster care more often than white children, although research shows no direct link between race and child abuse or neglect.

Black children also remain in foster care longer and are less likely to be reunited with their families than whites, it said.

The Casey Foundation reported that children removed from homes are more likely to drop out of school, suffer mental health problems and wind up in the juvenile or adult correctional systems.

Kentucky would like to avoid such problems by not removing children from homes whenever possible, Emberton said.

"We want to keep children with their families," he said.

Jennifer Jewell, coordinator for Women in Transition, said she hopes the state takes an in-depth look at the complexity of the issues poor families encounter in trying to retain custody of their children.

For example, if a parent lacks stable housing, the state might refuse to return children to the parent — even if all other problems have been corrected. The catch, Jewell said, is that a poor parent receiving "Section 8" federal housing assistance loses it once the children are removed from the home.

That forces the parent to find substandard housing, double up with relatives or possibly become homeless — and authorities then refuse to return the children because the parent lacks a suitable home. And, the parent can't get the Section 8 subsidy back because of a long waiting list — in the thousands — in Jefferson County.

"Housing is a huge issue," Jewell said. "It's all poverty-related. People need to start connecting it to the larger issues."

Hollie said her problems date to her first court appearance over the state's plan to remove her children. She couldn't afford a lawyer, so she went alone — and lost.

State law doesn't require a judge to appoint a lawyer for poor parents until after the initial hearing to decide whether to remove the children from the home. Advocates, including Women In Transition, are seeking to change the law to require a lawyer be appointed immediately for parents, but that proposal failed in this year's legislative session.

"If I had the money to pay for a good attorney it never would have happened to me from day one," Hollie said. "If you're poor, you're just up the creek without a paddle."

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Racial disparity in foster care

High percentage of black children in state care
WBKO , KY, Apr 1, 2007.

A new report shows there are higher percentages of black children in state care than the general population.

The report says 20 percent of children in state care are black, while only 7.3 percent of the state's population is black.

That disparity has state officials launching a project to see why so many black children are being removed from homes and what can be done about it.

State officials have identified 11 counties with the highest rates of black children in state care and will spend about $500,000 dollars over the next year to try to find out why.

The state is also launching more training and education on possible biases by child welfare workers and how to overcome them.

Jefferson County has the highest rate of black children removed from homes because of alleged neglect and abuse.

More than half of the Jefferson County children in state care are black, although African Americans make up only 19 percent of the county's population.

Relocation of Child Focus Foster Care

Child Focus Inc. Foster Care making a move
Community Press, April 4, 2007.

CLERMONT COUNTY - Child Focus Foster Care, 988 Ohio Pike at the intersection of Bennett, will soon be relocating program services to the main Child Focus campus in Mt. Carmel.

"(Child Focus) will continue licensing new foster parents and maintaining existing foster parent base," said Pam Lindeman, M.Ed., LSW, director of foster care and out of home care services for Child Focus. "The relocation of foster care to the main Child Focus campus will result in a greater county-wide accessibility to foster care program services and supports."

The main Child Focus campus is at 555 and 551 Cincinnati-Batavia Pike in the Mt. Carmel/Eastgate area.

"We are looking forward to being in the same facility where so many great services are offered including Head Start, Outpatient Mental Health and School services," said Lindeman. "It feels like we're going back to our core, our home."

Child Focus Foster Care offers training and certification services to interested applicants in Clermont County. Applicants benefit from 44 hours of preparatory training and homestudy assessment.

"During our transition back to the main Child Focus campus, training and certification activities will continue to be offered monthly to interested persons. Our phone number, 752-1555, and open orientation meetings, held the first Tuesday of every month, will remain the same," said Lindeman.

Child Focus has been a provider of foster care services since 1989 and continues to evidence effective outcomes.

"Unlike many private foster care agencies in the Greater Cincinnati area targeting recruitment efforts in Clermont, Child Focus is based in Clermont County and is committed to partnering with families to care for children from Clermont County," said Lindeman. "Foster parents are vital to the system of care for children in Clermont County."

In 2006, Child Focus provided for the daily care of more than 45 children and adolescents.

"There continues to be a great need for families to care for younger children, sibling groups and older youth. We need more strong, supportive families to open their homes. Ultimately, though, we want to assure the public that we will continue to be the same quality program - the only thing we're changing is the address."

If you are interested in more information on becoming a foster parent, contact a foster care representative at 752-1555.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Couple willing to trade their baby for an SUV and some cash

Couple offered toddler for $3,000 and an SUV, police say
CNN, March 24, 2007.

OWENSBORO, Kentucky (AP) -- A couple are charged with trying to sell a 15-month-old girl for $3,000 and a sport-utility vehicle.

Charles G. Hope Jr., 32, and Amber M. Revlett, 26, both of Owensboro, planned to use the money to pay off his fines for previous criminal charges, said Daviess County Sheriff's Lt. Bill Thompson. They were arrested Friday.

Thompson said it started out Wednesday as a joke between the couple and two women, but it became apparent that Hope and Revlett weren't kidding.

"This is one of those things that worked out, and, luckily, we were able to do this before they were able to sell the child to someone who may not have contacted law enforcement," Thompson said.

Hope told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer that he wasn't trying to sell his girlfriend's little girl.

"I love her babies, I love my babies, and people don't have enough money to get any of my kids," he told the newspaper.

Hope said the two women he's accused of trying to sell the baby to were just trying to get the child for themselves.

"They said something to [Revlett] about giving us $500 for temporary custody to take her to New Mexico and I said, 'Well, give me $3,000 and your truck,"' Hope said. "The next thing I know, I'm sitting here accused of trying to sell my kid ... . I know they don't think I'm serious, they just want her."

Thompson said Revlett's three children were placed in the custody of child protective services.

Selling a child for adoption is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Monday, April 02, 2007

80 new social workers will be hired (vs. original request of 200+)

Boni Bill passes - at end of session
Compromise on oversight reached
Vos, Sarah. Lexington Herald-Leader, March 28, 2007, pg. D1.

FRANKFORT -- The state would hire as many as 80 new social workers under an agreement reached by the House and Senate last night on the so-called Boni Bill.

The agreement gives the Cabinet for Health and Family Services $2.5 million for new staff and $3.5 million for visitation centers for foster children and their biological parents, safety improvements at regional offices and technology improvements like panic buttons, said Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, and Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville. It appropriates more money than either of the versions that originally passed both Houses.The agreement was passed by both houses as an amendment to Senate Bill 59, a transportation reorganization bill. The measure passed both chambers unanimously -- and to cheers and clapping in the House.

Cabinet Secretary Mark Birdwhistell said he was pleased. "It's been a very exciting and difficult couple of days," he said.

Passage came after a long day of negotiations. Even after agreement had been reached by the conference committee, the bill's future appeared in question as a result of the political wrangling.

About 8:30 p.m., the House passed the agreement as an amendment to SB 59, and, shortly thereafter, sent their members home.

"We're not going to be strung out all night," House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, told reporters.

The Senate later approved the same language but as HB 362, the original Boni Bill, named after slain Henderson social worker aide Boni Frederick.

Half an hour later, the Senate approved SB 59, as amended by the House, sending the Boni Bill on to the governor.

Until late yesterday, the main sticking point had been how much oversight the legislature would get over the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The House version had called for an outside task force to study policies and procedures at the cabinet, and the Senate version had called for a cabinet-appointed study group.

The agreement goes with the Senate version but puts the chairs of the Senate and House Health and Welfare Committees on the study group, Burch said.

"This is a major concession on the House's part," Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, said as the two sides met early yesterday. That meeting included Wayne, Lee, Burch, Rep. C.B. Embry Jr., R-Morgantown; Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville; Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson; and Birdwhistell.

It ended abruptly when Denton and Ridley were called back to the Senate. Senate President David Williams later described the meeting as an "ambush."

"They were trying to talk and clear the air," he said. "The House people had the press down there."

In the end, Birdwhistell acted as an emissary as a compromise was reached.

Lee called the agreement a start. "It's been a long, hard struggle to get where we are," he said.

Children are dying, and Cabinet is hiding behind veil of confidentiality

Commentary: Unlock the files - child-abuse cases need public scrutiny
Lexington Herald-Leader, March 30, 2007, pg. A12.

The clamp on information after a child dies of abuse in Kentucky is a disservice to the taxpaying public and to children at risk of becoming the next grisly statistic.

Lawmakers and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services should lift the lid on events leading to a child's death, including the role of government agencies.Kentucky children die of abuse and neglect at a significantly higher rate than the national average, and the number of such deaths is rising.

It's naive to think that all children can be shielded from the brutality in their lives. But it's also reasonable for the public to be able to scrutinize how well government agencies are protecting the children with whom they have contact.

In the last few weeks, parents have been charged in the deaths of three Central Kentucky children, including one who had been moved from foster care into a home where both adults had records of domestic violence.

As it stands, the cabinet that oversees child protection seldom, if ever, releases its internal investigations into such deaths.

Cabinet lawyers cite the confidentiality of clients' medical records -- even when the client is dead -- and other provisions of Kentucky law.

We understand the importance of protecting the privacy of siblings and informants. But there has to be a way to redact genuinely sensitive information while giving the public an idea of whether government agencies have dropped the ball.

States that are losing fewer children to abuse than Kentucky have opened up the process to increase accountability. Kentucky should, too.

State Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, plans to once again push for the release of summaries of the internal reviews; similar legislation failed in 2004.

Palumbo also says she'll draft legislation that would allow lawmakers to review cases to track decisions made by the child-protection agency.

In many cases, such disclosure would reveal that social workers had done all they could and would exonerate the cabinet.

We understand there are complicated questions surrounding the privacy of juveniles -- those who have committed crimes and those who are victims of crimes. Among those who say juveniles would be better protected by opening up certain legal proceedings, including termination of parental rights, is former state Inspector General Robert J. Benvenuti.

Shedding more light on child-abuse deaths is not a complicated question. It's the obvious right thing -- and something that the legislature should require and that the cabinet should allow on its own.

State Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo will again push for the release of data.

Over 75% of social workers have been verbally or physically attacked

Bill to protect social workers gains approval
Alford, Roger. Kentucky Post, March 28, 2007, pg. A13.

Lawmakers reacted to the grisly slaying of a social worker by approving a bill intended to lessen the dangers faced by others working in the same occupation.

Under the measure, named in honor of slain social worker Boni Frederick, visits between birth parents and abused or neglected children take place in secure locations.

Lawmakers pushed the Boni Bill through late Tuesday, the last day of the legislative session.

Frederick died in October after being stabbed and beaten when she took a 10-month-old boy for a visit at the house of his mother, 33-year-old Renee Terrell. Prosecutors say Terrell and her 23-year-old boyfriend, Christopher Luttrell, killed Frederick, stole her car and kidnapped the boy. He was found safe and returned to foster care after a three-day manhunt.

Terrell and Luttrell have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping, robbery and theft.

The measure appropriates $6 million to institute safety procedures, including opening regional visitation centers and hiring 60 to 80 additional social workers.

Money was also set aside for other safety measures, which could include purchasing two-way radios with panic buttons for all social workers, said state Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, who served on a joint House and Senate committee that hammered out the final details.

Frederick's daughter, Sandy Travis of Dixon, said she was relieved that the bill passed and is on its way to Gov. Ernie Fletcher to be signed into law. Travis had lobbied for the bill in several appearances at the Capitol.

"This has devastated my whole family," Travis said. "If I got up in the morning and read where another social worker was killed like my mother was killed, it would hurt just as bad."

Gov. Ernie Fletcher said earlier Tuesday that lawmakers were playing politics with the legislation. Fletcher had assigned Health and Family Services Secretary Mark Birdwhistell to help House and Senate lawmakers reach the compromise.

"It's been a long journey, but we're very pleased that the provisions of the Boni Bill are now passed," Birdwhistell said. "We can move forward with protecting the health and safety of our social workers."

State Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, said he was upset that it took so long to get lawmakers to approve the measure, which can save the lives of social workers.

"That's the sad thing," Burch said. "Somebody has to die for these people to take any action."

The original bill, backed by the Fletcher administration, called for about $20 million during the next 16 months to add more than 300 social services staffers, including 225 social workers, to the state payroll.

State Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, D-Hazard, said he had doubts in recent weeks whether the measure would pass.

Mongiardo had been involved in drafting the legislation, listening to the concerns of social workers from across the state on what's needed to make them safer.

"Over 75 percent of social workers have been verbally or physically attacked," he said. "It's obvious that what we've done to this point has not been enough."

Second Lexington child to die at the hands of a parent within the past 31 days

Another child killed, another parent charged
Short lives, violent deaths - 2-month-old dies from injuries
Lennen, Steve and Delano Massey. Lexington Herald-Leader, March 28, 2007, pg. A1.

As young children played in the grass yesterday on Winnie Drive, Ruben and Lester Clarkson said they had a hard time believing what authorities say occurred the day before behind a nearby apartment door.

Michael Lee Reed, 19, is accused of killing his two-month-old daughter, Brianna Brown. He is charged with murder. Brianna is the third Central Kentucky child -- and the second Lexington baby -- to die in 31 days allegedly at the hands of a parent.

Brianna died from her injuries yesterday morning at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, according to Lexington police.

An autopsy at the state medical examiner's office in Frankfort is scheduled for this morning, Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said.

Neighbors Ruben and Lester Clarkson, who are brothers, said they couldn't picture Reed injuring his baby girl. They agreed he was quiet, even timid.

"He doesn't seem like the type of person who would do that. He's been out here and played with my kids," Lester Clarkson said. Later he added, "But behind closed doors, hey, you never know."

On Monday, police were called about 1:10 p.m. to the UK medical center about an unresponsive child. Lexington firefighters and EMTs earlier went to the Prall Place Apartments on Winnie Drive and took the baby to the hospital.

Reed later called Lester Clarkson from the hospital and told him the child was brain dead, Clarkson said.

Police arrested Reed and initially charged him with first-degree criminal abuse at 2:15 a.m. yesterday. The charges were upgraded to murder after the infant died at 11:30 a.m. yesterday.

According to the initial police report, Reed "intentionally abused" his 2-month-old daughter, which resulted in serious physical injury.

The report also said Reed admitted the abuse.

Reed is being held in the Fayette County jail. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the new charge this afternoon in Fayette District Court. Since the charge has been changed, his bond will not be set until after his arraignment.

Brianna Brown is the second Lexington baby to die in recent weeks.

Caleb Eli Bishop died Feb. 25 at UK Hospital after four days in intensive care. He suffered a skull fracture, a broken leg, retinal hemorrhaging and an injury to his right ear, according to court documents.

His mother, Courtney Diane Brundige Bishop, is charged with murder and is scheduled for a preliminary court hearing this morning.

Investigators would not say much about the circumstances surrounding Brianna's death. Police Lt. John Gensheimer said he could not comment on the nature or the cause of the child's injuries.

A spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services said that Brianna's death will be investigated by the cabinet, but declined to say whether state social workers had previous contact with the family. It was not known last night where the couple's 2-year-old son was staying.

Ruben Clarkson worked with Reed at a nearby Dairy Queen until about a week ago. He said they worked during the evenings and Reed was often at his girlfriend's apartment during the day caring for Brianna and the 2-year-old boy, Brandon, they have together.

"He played out here all the time with the boy," Clarkson said. If Reed is responsible for the baby's death, it must have been an accident, he said. "I don't think it was intentional."

Last night, Reed's father, James Smith, was also struggling to wrap his mind around the tragedy.
As he stood outside on his front porch, Smith clutched a tiny pink object, which resembled a flower in a small pot. Instead of petals, the flower had a white furry mane surrounding a framed picture of Brianna. He stared at the picture, then his eyes floated toward the ground.

"I think they're rushing to judgment," Smith said. "I know they have to blame somebody, but why rush judgment?"

Reed's thoughts drifted to Monday, when his son called, his voice trembling in fear.

"I don't know what happened that day," Smith said. "He called us acting like he was scared. He said the baby was sick -- she was vomiting. That's all we know."

Smith said Brianna has never been abused, to his knowledge. Reed would often drop Brianna off with his parents while he ran errands. Neither Smith nor his wife ever noticed any marks or bruises. Reed has two other children -- his young son and an infant with another woman -- and there have never been any signs of abuse with them, Smith said.

"I've been around this boy for so many years," he said, pausing to collect his thoughts. "I'm really worried. Hopefully the charges they have against him aren't true."

Staff writer Beth Musgrave contributed to this report.

How to report suspected child abuse
If you believe a child is being abused or neglected, the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services suggests you call the Child Protection Hot Line at 1-800-752-6200, or the Protection and Permanency office in your county. The cabinet's Web site, http://chfs htm, lists some answers to frequently asked questions:

Who should report suspected abuse or neglect of a child?
The Kentucky Revised Statute says every person -- not just teachers and doctors -- who has reasonable cause to think a child is being physically abused, sexually abused, neglected or is dependent has a duty to report the abuse.

What information do you need to provide when reporting abuse?
* The child's name, sex and approximate age.
* The name of the person thought to have been responsible for the abuse or neglect.
* A description of the injury, neglect or threatened harm to the child.
* The current location of the child; day care or school; home address.
* Any immediate risk to the child or to a worker going out to ensure the child's safety (i.e., guns).

Can a person reporting abuse be sued?
The reporter is given civil and criminal immunity from prosecution as long as the reporter acted in good faith. The Department for Community Based Services releases the name of a reporter only upon the order of a judge.

If I report someone for child abuse, do I have to give my name?
No. Abuse reports can be made anonymously. However, in order to follow up with additional information, callers are encouraged to identify themselves.

What happens to children who are being abused if it is reported?
Reports of child abuse will be investigated by the Department for Community Based Services. If it is substantiated, children may be removed from the home and placed in foster care until their family situation can be evaluated and corrected. Treatment services are provided, which may make it possible for children to remain in the home.

Source: Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services; Kentucky Revised Statutes.

African American parents more likely to have children removed from their custody

State to study blacks in foster care
Dispropotionate number taken from homes
Honeycutt-Spears, Valarie. Lexington Herald-Leader, March 31, 2007.

A project is under way to find out why there is a disproportionate number of black children being removed from their families and put into state foster care in Kentucky.

African Americans make up only 13.5 percent of Fayette County's population.

But of all the children in out-of-home state care in Fayette County, 45.7 percent are black.

Fayette County is one of 11 counties statewide that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services will study, Cabinet spokesperson Vikki Franklin said yesterday.

Statewide, blacks make up 7.3 percent of Kentucky's population. About 19 percent of the 7,000 children in state custody are black.

State child protection officials will facilitate meetings in which state social workers and community partners, including police, will gather to discuss the factors that put black children in state care.

The cabinet will not release details of the project until Monday, Franklin said, but she confirmed yesterday that workshops will begin in Jefferson County and then expand to other parts of the state.

The National Association of Black Social Workers is expressing concern about the numbers of black children in state care nationwide -- at last count over 40 percent of all children in state custody were lack.

The Washington, D.C-based group's Web site says that African American parents are no more likely to abuse or neglect their children but they are more likely to be investigated, have children removed from their home, and receive fewer services from the state.